Friday, May 21, 2010

Roast Chicken with Lemon and Herbs

Every so often I like to plan a big meal: a big piece of roasted meat, potatoes, and an assortment of vegetables. One of our favorites, and the easiest, is this roasted chicken stuffed with lemon and herbs. I like to buy the largest chicken I can find, and big bunches of thyme and rosemary when I make this.

The incredible lemon and herb-heavy smell that fills the house after this chicken has been in the oven for about an hour is amazing. Even people with no appetite will find themselves salivating. When I make this, the cat is never very far from the kitchen the entire time, and I have learned never to walk away from the chicken when it is sitting on the counter to rest before carving.

The bonus with this recipe, in addition to the plentiful cooked white meat ready for other recipes, is that I use the carcass to make stock, which freezes well and tastes better than anything from a can or a bouillon cube. Sometimes I am pressed for time, because I have just spent an afternoon slaving over a hot stove making a big meal and then another hour or so cleaning up and putting away all of the leftovers. On those nights, I don't always feel like dealing with a big pot of stock until 10 pm, so I just put the cooled carcass in a large ziplock freezer bag, and stick it in the freezer until I am ready to make the stock.

The only drawback to this recipe is that, considering our current limited stage of genetic engineering, chickens still have only 2 wings and 2 drumsticks. My odd kids prefer the dark meat and have been known to battle, greasy-fingered, over a drumstick or a stray bit of dark meat on the platter. As frightening as the thought of some Frankenchicken may be, it would save me some arguments.

Roast Chicken with Lemon and Herbs

  • 1 whole roaster chicken, 5-7 pounds
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 T whole grain mustard (I like Maille)
  • several sprigs of fresh thyme
  • several sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves whole, peeled garlic
  • more fresh thyme and rosemary

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  2. Line a roasting pan with foil.

  3. Soften the butter in a bowl and add chopped fresh rosemary (just the leaves) and thyme (leaves and stalks) along with 1 T mustard, mix well and set aside.

  4. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze out half the juice, reserving it.

  5. Rinse the chicken well and don't forget to remove the bags of chicken guts and necks from inside. Trust me, you don't want to roast those. Pat the bird dry and set it, breast side up, in the roasting rack.

  6. Cut a few slits in the skin of the breast meat. Pour the juice from the 1/2 lemon over the chicken. Take a few bunches of the herbs and stuff them in the slits under the skin. Sometimes I even cut slits in the meat and force the herbs into the breast meat.

  7. Rub the chicken down with the butter mixture.

  8. Stuff the chicken with more bunches of herbs, the cloves of garlic, one quartered onion, the squeezed-out lemon half and the unsqueezed lemon half.

  9. With your handy roll of cooking twine, truss the bird so that nothing pops out of the cavity. Some people also truss up the wings, but I rarely do.

  10. Tent with foil and roast in a preheated oven.

  11. After one hour, take it out and baste with the juices, then remove the foil and put it back in the oven to roast for another hour or so until the juices run clear (not pink) when you poke it with something sharp. Ideally, you can use a meat thermometer in the thigh. It's done when it reads 180.

    The total roasting time depends on weight and it goes something like 20 minutes per pound plus an extra 20 minutes. How scientific, no? My 7 pound bird roasted for a good two and a half hours, and a 3 pound bird was done in an hour and a half.

  12. Move to a carving board to rest 15 minutes before slicing. Serve when ready.

  • On occasion, I have added quartered potatoes, onions and garlic to the bottom of the roasting pan to cook in the accumulated juices of the chicken. While it is as tasty as hell, the end result is often absolutely swimming in grease.

  • Lately, when I make the oven-roasted vegetables with this dish, I lay them in a single layer, wrapped in foil and placed on a cookie sheet. That slips onto the rack in the bottom of the oven. I put them in the oven after I check the chicken, one hour into the roasting.

For the potatoes:
  • 6 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 1 onion, cut into eighths
  • fresh thyme
  • fresh rosemary
  • fresh sage
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T whole grain mustard
  • 2 cloves whole, peeled garlic

  1. Line a cookie sheet with a long piece of foil.

  2. Wash and cut the potatoes, put in a big bowl with the shallots, onion and whole garlic.

  3. Add the olive oil and 1 T of mustard, mix well.

  4. Put the vegetables on the foil-lined cookie sheet in a single layer. Cover with another piece of foil and seal it up to make a packet.

  5. Place in oven and cook for an hour. After an hour, remove the top sheet of foil and let cook another 30 minutes.

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